Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV)
This seems like such a simple verse to live by, but recently I have been challenged more and more on what it really means.
There have been many instances in my past of having to sort out “what really happened” while dealing with students involved in disciplinary proceedings. It was always difficult when you only have two distinctive sides to a story and no witnesses. I have also found that even if you have witnesses that they often distort what really happened because they begin to interpret happenings from what they think they saw happening rather than just what happened. I remember distinctly a time when I was placed in the awkward position of having to observe the goings on at the home of one of my “clients.” We had suspected some activity for some time and had received rumored reports but had nothing factual to go on. Now, I can tell you what I saw, and then I can tell you what I started thinking might be going on. It was at that point that the reality of this verse came through loud and clear. From what I saw, I could have made all kinds of judgments regarding their behavior, which went from innocent to very guilty. In this case the appearance of evil really did make a difference in the conclusions that were drawn.
It is the same way in my life, what I do and how it “may” look to others can really distort their view of my faith and me. I came away from that evening being ever so mindful that even if what I am doing is innocent, if I am not aware of how others may view my actions I could be accused of being very guilty by those watching me.
I also became vividly aware of John 7:24 (NIV) that reminds me to, Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment. As much as I do not want people to make judgments about me by what they think they see, I need to make sure I don’t do the same.
How are you living? Are you living so that others cannot misconstrue your actions to be something they are not? Are you making sure that before you come to conclusions about others you find out the truth? May we all take a good look at ourselves and make sure we are only displaying godliness through our lives.
Dr. Lynne Jahns